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Embracing Your Expert Identity

They’re Not Paying You to Follow Their Lead

The relationship we have with our students’ parents is not that of an employee and manager at a McDonalds. They’re not paying us to show up and do exactly as asked. They’re paying for our expertise.

Parents and students at our studio want us to be a leader. They want us to be the expert who guides their journey. Sometimes, being a guide that people can trust means advising against a change of direction with authority and certainty.

More often, though, it means setting the course and giving the people you are guiding enough information about the plan so that they feel confident stepping along the path. They need to know they’re going in the right direction and trust you to lead them there.

Shine the Torch Forward Along the Path at Regular Intervals

Part of being a good guide means sharing your vision with those who you’re leading. That means sending some kind of progress reports, whether formal or informal, on a predictable schedule.

For every young student, you’re actually leading two people: The student and the parent. Both of them need to be able to track where you are on your shared mission and feel like they’re part of the expedition team. 

The easiest way to ensure that happens is to commit to a system and write it down. Here’s an example: 

  • At the end of each year, and after term 3, I will take half a lesson to go through the student’s goals with them using the Student Self-assessment Form and Midyear Goal Setting Sheet.
  • I will update and send parent progress reports at week 15 and week 30 every year.
  • I will host a parent coffee morning every October to connect with them and provide an opportunity to ask questions face-to-face.

How your system looks is up to you – it doesn’t really matter whether you call, email or send a detailed report by post. It should match your studio’s brand and make sense for your unique superpower, and it probably will if it comes from you.

Keep it simple. Keep it predictable. 

The important part is that parents and students know you’re steering the ship so that they don’t try and grab the wheel. Which brings me to…

Recommend, Don’t Suggest

A guide makes recommendations, not suggestions.

Whether you want a student to switch to longer lessons, get a new book or upgrade their instrument, do a quick gut-check on all your communication to make sure it comes across as an expert giving a prescription, not a friend offering an idea.

They don’t know what they don’t know. If we come across as a bit wishy-washy they’ll think that it’s not such a big deal that their child who’s working on Debussy doesn’t have access to a pedal. 

I know many of us are recovering people-pleasers, so it’s time for a game of ‘Say this, not that!’

  • At this stage, I recommend Zandria moves to 45 minute lessons. It would be great if you could switch to 45 minute lessons next year.
  • Yolanda needs a digital piano with weighted keys. If you have the budget, a digital piano with weighted keys would be better. 
  • Xavier is ready to start his exam repertoire; please have the book ready for the next lesson. When you get a chance, it would be super if you picked up the exam repertoire book so we can get started.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t offer any explanation (we need to shine a light along the path, remember?) but your actual recommendation should be clear and definitive. You are the expert. Wear the badge with pride.

More to Explore

If you’re having trouble with the idea of being the expert and suffering from imposter syndrome I have an article about that here and Vikki Hoodless shared her experience here.